The 2,740-acre Dillingham Ranch on Oʻahu is one of the few true legacy properties for sale in Hawaiʻi today. I say that in acknowledgement of the attributes of this listing and the responsibility its new steward will have to the ranchʻs history, to the land, and to the community.
One dictionary definition of the word “legacy” is anything transmitted from an ancestor or predecessor. When real estate buyers tell me they are looking for a “legacy property” they are rarely thinking about their personal heirs alone. They are thinking of legacy in terms of making a lasting and positive contribution to future generations. Dillingham Ranch qualifies as a legacy property in the sense of its history as well as in the sense of its potential for a new owner to leave their mark.
The Historic Legacy of Dillingham Ranch
The traditional name for this ʻāina is Mokulēʻia — which means “district of abundance.” The North Shore is still referred to as The Country by Oʻahu residents who intend to keep it that way. This property is embedded in a community with a strong sense of place.
The name Dillingham is associated with a family that left its legacy primarily in the infrastructure of modern Hawaiʻi. The first Dillingham to own this property, Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, is known as the “railroad tycoon” of Hawaiʻi. His son Walter Dillingham shaped Oʻahu in massive projects that created Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, and Rodgers Field- the predecessor of Honolulu International Airport.
Yet these generations of Dillinghams kept their oceanfront north shore ranch intact as a family retreat, hosting cattlemen, polo players, royalty, and celebrities from around the world.
The Present of Dillingham Ranch
At closing, the new steward of Dillingham Ranch will have a 2,740-acre agricultural holding extending from the mountains to the oceanfront, with plenty of privacy for their own residence or residences. This video gives a good feel for the ambiance and location of the property.
New owners will also have income from significant existing improvements, uses, and businesses that could be enhanced. These include:
- Equestrian facilities: the Hawaii Polo Clubʻs oceanfront polo field, horse boarding and training facilities, and miles of trails
- A working ranch with high-quality pasture for grass-fed cattle or other livestock (currently running about 100 head, but carrying capacity could be as much as 700 head)
- A commercial palm tree nursery
- Event venues: both at the renovated, historic Dillingham Lodge with a commercial kitchen and eight bedrooms, and throughout the property as a film location
- Recreational activities including hunting, hiking, mountain biking in the forested uplands, and swimming, surfing, kayaking, or boating on the oceanfront.
The Future of Dillingham Ranch
The buyer pool that we have seen in presenting this iconic legacy property is in tune with the realities of the future envisioned for Hawaiʻi, a future with more self-sufficiency in food and energy, an economy diversified with less reliance on tourism and land development.
Although the sellers had envisioned and received entitlements for a 70-lot subdivision, we have not seen strong prospect interest in Dillingham Ranch as a development opportunity.
From my perspective as Hawaiʻi Lifeʻs Director of Conservation and Legacy Lands, the entitlements are useful primarily because having development rights on a property with significant conservation values creates an ideal situation for a purchaser to use conservation easements to preserve agricultural and forestry uses, receiving either tax benefits or outright income. The National Trust for Public Lands and the local North Shore Community Land Trust have offered to work with an owner wanting to ensure this property stays as a legacy for future generations.
Why is Dillingham Ranch back to active status after months in escrow? In my way of looking at it, the bride did not get left at the altar. Sometimes after a long courtship, a couple realizes before their wedding date that they just are not a good fit. Over and over again I have seen that special, powerful places in Hawaiʻi seem to wait for the buyer who will do right by them. The ʻāina chooses its new steward as much as the buyer chooses the property.
Contact us if the opportunity beckons and you think the right next steward might be you.